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Derby delight for Arsenal and Everton as Chelsea down City
Missing: one right back for Rehanne Skinner
The WSL sort of* gets ready to head off on an international break almost as soon as its begun, but Arsenal, Manchester United and Aston Villa all remain unbeaten. Meanwhile Manchester City, Leicester City and Reading are at the bottom without a win.
* Chelsea play West Ham and Everton play Leicester as part of some of the rearranged fixtures from opening weekend.
Chelsea 2 - Manchester City 0
Chelsea picked up their first points of the WSL season at Kingsmeadow as a goal from Fran Kirby and penalty from Maren Mjelde was enough to secure a win over Manchester City. Both teams had improved on their opening weekends but on the balance of play, Chelsea probably deserved the result.
This felt like a game that was won by the fullbacks. Following Chelsea’s surprise defeat to Liverpool last week, Emma Hayes switched to a back four, utilising Magdalena Eriksson and Maren Mjelde as her left back and right back respectively. The fact that both these players are equally comfortable at centre-back tells you everything you need to know about how Hayes wanted to approach defending against Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp. Mjelde was starting her first WSL game for the club since March 2020.
Manchester City, meanwhile, handed WSL debuts to Kerstin Casparij and Leila Ouahabi. Ouahabi had a particularly tough task when it came to defending against Lauren James but it was initially Casparij Chelsea targeted, playing out via Magda Eriksson to encourage Guro Reiten to run at her 1v1. However, as the game went on Casparij became more comfortable and Chelsea turned their attention to Ouahabi instead. James was given licence to roam all over the place, sending Manchester City players dizzy with the ball at her feet.
In the end both Chelsea’s goals came as a result of exploiting City’s fullbacks. The penalty, given as a result of a handball from Ouahabi, was less about tactics and more about a poor decision on the player’s part. But the first came as Jessie Fleming eased past Steph Houghton and Guro Reiten was able to get round Casparij to cut back to Kirby. Meanwhile Chelsea’s fullbacks could be pleased with a day of work well done. Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp were limited to a shot on target each for a combined expected goals of 0.15.
Liverpool 0 - Everton 3
There was certainly one Manchester City winger having a fun weekend but she was playing up at Anfield. Jess Park, on loan at Everton, lit up the Merseyside derby, posing a slight question mark as to whether she might actually have been worth keeping around in Manchester for this season. After all, it is just under two years since Park was a surprise starter for City against Chelsea. There is no doubt however that she is a fantastic addition to an Everton team who might be beginning to find their feet.
After an attacking display that showed glimpses of promise against West Ham, they took the next step this weekend as goals from Megan Finnigan, Jess Park and Hanna Bennison gave them a comfortable win over Liverpool. Liverpool rallied at the end to produce a couple of good opportunities, but they are yet to truly put together a convincing attacking performance in the WSL.
Arsenal 4 - Tottenham 0
The North London Derby was something of a procession for Arsenal as goals from Beth Mead, Vivianne Miedema (x2), and Rafaelle meant they strolled through a match that on paper looked like it might have been tricky. Arsenal had looked fairly lacklustre midweek against Ajax in Champions League qualifying but Tottenham made it easy for them to forget their worries from the very start. Beth Mead was able to saunter through the vacated space on the right hand side of Tottenham’s defence in the 5th minute for the opener whilst Becky Spencer practically passed the ball to Caitlin Foord who squared it to Miedema for Arsenal’s second.
Whilst Tottenham did not exactly make this hard work for Arsenal, Jonas Eidevall did make some interesting tweaks to his side. Stina Blackstenius was dropped in favour of Caitlin Foord who is much more adept at the kind of rotational forward play which helps involve the rest of Arsenal’s attack. Katie McCabe played in Foord’s place on the left wing but regularly tucked inside to help Arsenal overload Spurs in midfield. The result was undeniably a more dynamic Arsenal, and it will be interesting to see if Eidevall persists with it going forward.
Brighton 2 - Reading 1
It was hard to watch this match as much more than being between two teams who are just not very good. The litany of defensive errors both sides made with neither one truly able to capitalise made for quite painful watching at times. Brighton could have been three or four up by half time, whilst Natasha Dowie had one of the misses of the season when she somehow skewed the ball wide from point blank range.
Their ability to stay in the division might come down to the efforts of their goalkeepers. Megan Walsh remains an impressive shot-stopper although she should have come and collected the cross that led to Reading’s consolation goal, whilst Grace Moloney made an error for her side’s opening concession for the second week in a row. Both of these sides will need to use the international break to get more organised, and quickly.
West Ham 0 - Manchester United 2
Frustrated against West Ham until the 50th minute, this was perhaps the kind of game where Manchester United might have stumbled last season but that was not the case here. Goals from Lucia Garcia and Hannah Blundell gave United a win where West Ham held firm but did not truly threaten, managing only one shot on target in the whole match. Lucia Garcia’s goal was finished very calmly, a welcome sign for United fans who might have felt concern about some of her previous profligacy in a Spain shirt, and it was clear throughout the match that her relationship with her attacking teammates is growing with every game. Garcia and Toone looked comfortable swapping in and out of each other's positions and this Manchester United side already looks remarkably settled. It’s hard not to feel like the international break is coming at just the wrong time for them.
Leicester 0 - Aston Villa 2
Aston Villa required an early penalty from Rachel Daly and a late goal from Emily Gielnik to beat a Leicester side who are showing themselves to be a lot more resilient than teams might expect. With Brighton and Reading looking incredibly disorganised, Lydia Bedford might be hopeful that by making themselves difficult to beat they could pick up the required points. However, they still have a lot less proven options in attack, and a tricky run of games until they meet Reading at the end of October.
Oh and for anyone on ‘Aston Villa goal total’ watch, they’re now almost at 50% of last year.